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Editor's Note: The fifth in a six part series looking at "game changing" moves that the Patriots have made this offseason. Today, we look at the issue of leadership and the locker room, and see how the Patriots have addressed that issue this offseason.
One of the biggest issues surrounding the Patriots heading into this offseason was the question of the locker room chemistry, after team had its fair share of issues following the veteran turnover between 2008 and 2009. Rodney Harrison, gone. Tedy Bruschi, gone. Richard Seymour, gone. Mike Vrabel, gone.
My point isn't to beat a dead horse, but rather to evaluate how the Patriots have added to their locker room this season, in particular, through the draft. While you can't simply draft players who step in immediately as leaders, you can draft high character guys who were leader at their respective schools, and have the work ethic to develop into leaders. And I feel the Patriots did exactly that.
Consider what Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick had to say in his post-draft press conference:
I think players that are good players, but also have traits such as leadership, work ethic, good communications skills, toughness and those things end up being players who are elected leaders and representatives of their team - captains and so forth. A lot of times those follow each other. I mean we didn't go into the draft and say we just want to draft guys who were captains of their team. Certainly, the fact that they do that and put that together with the rest of the skills they have certainly add up for the players favor and a higher value for us.
I think you want to draft players that are tough, smart, that work hard, that are good instinctive players, that know how to play the game and that can make plays. Playmakers in the skill positions offensively and defensively or in the return game that can make plays. I'm not telling you anything new. We've tried to draft those players since I got here and I'm sure every other team in the league is trying to do basically the same thing. We certainly have guys that are tough, that have been productive and show the ability to come in and give our team what we feel like will benefit whether that's by position, by skill, their style of play or their work ethic. That's all part of it, too. We're always looking to improve those.
Clearly, Bill Belichick went into the draft knowing he had to select players that can develop into leaders. While you can't teach leadership, you can put certain players with certain qualities into certain situations where those players will grow into leadership roles.
With that in mind, here's a list of a few moves that the Patriots have made this offseason that will certainly help build the locker room and pave the way for new leaders to step up:
- Releasing Adalius Thomas.
- Re-Signing Vince Wilfork
- Re-Signing Tully Banta-Cain and Leigh Bodden, to keep 2009 core intact
- Adding Alge Crumpler
- Drafting Devin McCourty
- Drafting Jermaine Cunningham
- Drafting Brandon Spikes
You look at the list of the drafted players, and the name that pops out is Brandon Spikes, who was already calling the shots in the huddle for the 2nd team defense at OTA's and mini-camp. But beyond the draft picks, the Patriots will also be looking for second year players such as Patrick Chung and Darius Butler to step up as young leaders for this team.
This team has a new core, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and it's time for that new core to step up both on and off the field, as we move into a new era of Patriots football. Combine the young guns with the group that has remained intact from 2009, and the Patriots have a lot to look forward to from 2010 onwards.